THE Immigration Department director-general reacted with shock when he learned that more than 10 of his officers were being investigated for involvement in human trafficking.
Abdul Rahman Othman said yesterday that he was not aware of any investigation against any of his officers bythe AG's Chambers. He said he had been receiving calls non-stop since the news broke out.
"Till now I still don't know who the officers they are referring to and if that came from police investigations. I am yet to find out. I don't have any details," he said.
Yesterday, the head of the Prosecution Unit at the Attorney-General's Chambers, Tun Abdul Maj id Tun Hamzah, said that more than 10 Immigration officers were being investigated for involvement in human trafficking.
He said the officers based at various locations in Peninsular Malaysia, face prosecution for their roles in the activity.
Investigations into their activities were ongoing and "it was a matter of time" before they were hauled up."We expect to complete the investigations very soon," Tun Majid said.
Asked what action the department would take against the officers being investigated, Rahman said the standard procedures would be followed.
"If they are being investigated by any other enforcement authority, we will provide our full cooperation intheir investigations. If they are charged, they will be suspended," he said.
Tun Majid in his statement said that three suspects would be charged with human trafficking this week, showing the country was serious in fighting the menace.
This comes just weeks after the United States had claimed that Malaysia was not doing enough to arrestthe problem.
It may seem like a proactive move by the government to go all out to combat human trafficking.
However,human rights groups feel that catching the traffickers will not solve the problem.
It was more important that the government be stern with enforcement officers and departments that areinvolved in trafficking.
Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez said it was good to see the government taking serious action againstthe culprits. However, it was sad to see that it is being done because of external pressure.
"There is still a lack of political commitment by our leaders to fight human trafficking. Punishing oneor two does not solve it. We have to look at the root of the problem and those who are responsible but are letting it happen" she said.
National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam felt that therestill was a lack of education among members of the public on human trafficking.
He said many still did not understand that not paying wages to their workers was also considered human trafficking.
"There is a need for all enforcement agencies to work together and also to create more public awareness that the government is not taking human trafficking issues lightly," Siva said.
Malaysian Human Rights Organisation (Suaram) director S. Arutchelvam said the issue needed more substantial and consistent action.
"The authorities will have to get involved more deeply and find out more on what is happening. Right now everyone is under pressure after the recent US report.
"I am just worried that once everything has cooled down, it will be back to square one again," said Arutchelvam.
The United States annual trafficking in persons report that is meant to expose trafficking problems aroundthe world and propose solutions, put Malaysia on its list of top trafficking offenders recently.
The report stated that Malaysia is a destination and source "for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and for men, women and children, trafficked for the purpose of forced labour".